Graduate Spotlight: Jabez Magomere – Bachelor of Science in Informatics and Computer Science
He’s probably cracked you up or gotten you so glued to some witty line of narration while emceeing in an event you attended. He really is a maestro with the mic. And when he says “Get your dancing shoes on”, you best believe the young man will get you reinventing dancing styles, however stiff your body is.
IT guys are reserved, and introverts who love to keep to themselves is a politically incorrect narrative Jabez Magomere would never subscribe to. Meeting him for the first time, you can’t help but notice his vibrant personality that feeds into his charisma.
A love affair
“Growing up, I spent 11 years in Kericho – a lush countryside in the Great Rift Valley, and I’m always joking that I somehow became a Kalenjin in the process and that’s why I love running. We relocated to Nairobi when I was in Class Six but I could not hang my running boots… I mean, my country might need me at the Olympics some day. I once came in 5th at the Annual Sports Day, marathon category, with the first four positions being taken by the great runners, the Kalenjins. So technically, I was very fast that day!
If being inquisitive was a skill, I think I had an unmatched knack for it from a tender age. I always wanted to know how things worked and the radio was an intriguing gadget for me. The unpopular stories as told by my parents that people were actually inside the radio had gotten me into so much trouble on countless occasions from disassembling my father’s beloved radios.
I remember this one time I connected a success card, back when success cards were a big deal – especially the musical ones – to the television set and it played. This and connecting a mortar to a battery and witnessing it spin inspired me to start my little book of innovations, a carefully drafted list of things I’d discovered and had blown my mind. I thirsted for more knowledge and yearned to dive into a space that would allow me to channel my curiosity into innovating solutions that would solve societal problems.
Long background short, this is how I discovered my passion for all things Information Technology.
Shortly before graduating from Sacho High School, Strathmore University representatives visited and gave a career talk during one of the Mathematics contests. Driven by my longstanding curiosity and love for innovation, I decided to pursue the Diploma in Business Information Technology (DBIT) as I waited for KUCCPS university placements.
I was still a bit indecisive. After being called up to pursue Computer Science at one of the top public universities through the government placement, I left Strathmore for a record two weeks. I had been rudely met with a culture shock and things could just not work out for me there. My mentor, Dr. Vincent Omwenga, played a pivotal role in my return to Strathmore. By this time, my parents had been convinced that my future plans stood a better chance with a Strathmore education.
Don’t just learn, experience. Don’t just change, transform.
I latched onto any opportunity that came my way and that’s how I started emceeing. I enjoyed hosting a couple of events, the most memorable being the movie nights, Cultural Week, Communication Week, Mentoring Week among many others. This really grew my public speaking prowess. In the same breath, I cherished the opportunity to represent the University Debate team at the East African Universities Debate Championships in 2018 where we were awarded second runners up. In 2019, in the company of a brilliant mind, Njuguna Macharia, we visited Ghana to represent the University for the Pan-African Universities Debate Championships and emerged second runners up, becoming the first team from East and Central Africa to rank in the top three positions.
On matters innovation, I participated in numerous hackathons including an IBM Water Solution one in 2018 where I won best solution by creating a prototype that could warn Nairobi residents of a looming water shortage, allowing them some time to plan accordingly.
An avid runner, on 4th October 2020, I took part in the 100KM Ultramarathon, a joint venture between the Strathmore University Foundation and the Office of the Vice Chancellor, geared towards raising funds to help a Stratizen #keeplearning. As Kathy Calvin says, “Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference”. Not only was this a personal milestone, but it also made me happy to know that the efforts of the runners would translate into changing the life of a Strathmore student who otherwise would not have a shot at seeing their studies through.
A most embarrassing reminiscence
If you are a real football fan, you know just how “we of the culture” debate passionately about the football clubs we support… the analysis session is so heated up you’d think we are seasoned club managers, especially the morning after a Champions League action-packed night.
It is one of those mornings and just because we can’t wait to have this discussion after class, my friend signals at me at the back when I enter class. Like a great friend, he has reserved a seat for me next to his. I brace myself for this epic debate. Did I already mention I am a good debater?
We are in Lecture Theatre (LT) 2, and it is a DBIT Ethics class being taught by a priest. The lesson is already underway and the lecturer signals at us but I brush it off thinking he is warning the people in front of us who are equally having a “tactical analysis” of their own. What I forget is, I am naturally loud so my whispers at the back aren’t really whispers. He signals again but I continue chattering. I am so engrossed I do not see him walking up at us in the lecture theatre. He bangs my desk and I am jolted squarely into what is happening. Everyone’s attention is on us now. I can tell he is furious.
He orders me out of his class and tells me to go report myself to the dean. I walk out of the class terrified to the core because I know these kind of visits to the dean are never pleasant. I am scared and I dread my parents’ involvement in this. As I get to the dean’s office, I’m told he is in a long meeting so I heave a euphoric sigh of relief. I go straight for actual confession hoping my lecturer will hear me out… rather, will forgive my behavior in class. He did and we became good friends.
An on-campus graduation experience
It’s funny how human beings can attach so much triumphant emotions while celebrating “the end of hardships” even though all was for their development. That pheeeeuks! Moment. A light at the end of the tunnel so to say. I like to look at it as an appreciation for one’s hard work and only you know and appreciate just how far you’ve come and what it took for you to get there.
This for me was a highlight on epic proportions. The physical conferment of a degree especially during these COVID times meant the world to not just me, but also to my fellow graduands then. The hope to a return to normalcy it inspired can never be emphasised enough. It was also the first time in a very long while I was seeing my friends and classmates, all in one piece and that gave me a wholesome experience.
I won an award for being the best performer in the School of Computing and Engineering Sciences. There is just something about receiving an award in person and having people cheer you. After all, you won it with them because you were not in class alone.
Don’t just dream, do!
I have really learnt invaluable social skills here. They are integral if I have to be an all-rounded positive disrupter in the society. Ethics and Communications Skills has taught me empathy and competence and I am confident this job market will not shake me up because I have what it takes. I am already currently working but I am hungry for more knowledge and challenges.
Of importance, and this I’d like to really emphasize is, yes, we have had the opportunity to gain a quality education. It’s just the first step. We need to harness all the skills we have acquired to build quality solutions in and for Africa.
Don’t just dream, do!
Jabez is this year’s Rhodes Scholarship recipient from Kenya and will be beginning his postgraduate studies in Oxford in September 2022.
This article is written by Francis Kabutu.